More than 40 clergy members rallied Thursday in Denver to criticize Colorado's ban on gay marriages, calling the recognition only of heterosexual couples "state-imposed discrimination at its worst." Members of the coalition also said they will fight a proposed federal constitutional amendment by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) to effectively outlaw gay marriage and instead push for a state law to give gay couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. Colorado banned gay marriages in 2000.
"It is time for the state of Colorado to stop discriminating," said the Rev. Phil Campbell, who brought together 45 area clergy to form the group Colorado Clergy for Equality in Marriage. The group includes clergy from the United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran, Unitarian Universalist, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism and Sisters of Loretto. Several members said their churches did not back their plan.
Musgrave's proposal, introduced last month, has 33 cosponsors and the endorsement of Senate majority leader Bill Frist. President Bush said a constitutional ban on gay marriage might not be needed, though he said he supported the "notion that marriage is between a man and a woman." To be added to the U.S. Constitution, the proposal must be approved by two thirds of the House and the Senate and ratified by three fourths of the states. Musgrave said Thursday she will continue to fight for a federal law. "A large majority of American people, nonreligious and religious, supports the idea of marriage being solely between a woman and a man," she said. "It has been a tradition for over 200 years in the U.S., and a basic tenet of every major religion in the world, not just Judaism and Christianity. Today's meeting by the very liberal clergy only strengthens my resolve to protect marriage," Musgrave said.
Ted Trimpa, spokesman for Equal Rights Colorado, which supports gay rights, said the group welcomed help from the clergy. "It's an uphill battle whose time has come. It deserves a full and open debate," Trimpa said. The Reverend Gilbert Caldwell compared the coalition's stance to the civil rights movement. "We remember the foolish legislation in some states that once prohibited the marriage of white and black persons," he said. "Legislation that denies the right to marriage of same-sex persons today disregards the reality and quality of long-term, same-sex relationships that exist in community after community."
Colorado became the 33rd state to prohibit same-sex unions. The state also bars the state from recognizing gay marriages in other states.